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November 30, 2016

Conventional Soybeans Promoted in Recent Meeting in Mato Grosso

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The state of Mato Grosso in the center-west region of Brazil is the largest conventional soybean (non-GMO) producer in the world and the capital of the state, Cuiaba, was the location last Thursday for the launch of the "Free Soybean Program for the 2016/17 Harvest." In Brazil, conventional soybeans are called "free soybeans" meaning that they are free of genetically modified organisms.

During the 2015/16 growing season, the Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) estimated that 15% of the soybeans produced in the state were conventional soybeans. Imea is currently estimating that over 10% of the soybeans in the state will once again be conventional soybeans in 2016/17. Mato Grosso is expected to produce 29.8 million tons of soybeans in 2016/17 on 9.3 million hectares (22.9 million acres).

Japan and Europe are currently the primary markets for conventional soybeans with increasing interest coming from China. The director of the Chinese trading company Hopeful, Lin Tan, who attended the meeting, indicated that all the soybeans used for human consumption in China are conventional soybeans.

In order for more conventional soybeans to be imported into China, he indicated that the governments of China and Brazil need to reach an agreement on purity standards. Legislation in China stipulates that conventional soybeans need to be 100% pure, while Brazilian standards allows for a small level of contamination with GMO soybeans. In order for more conventional soybeans to be exported to China, the two countries will need to agree on a common standard of purity.

Brazil is the only one of the three big soybean producers including the United States and Argentina that still produces conventional soybeans. While the multinational seed companies have given up on marketing conventional soybeans, the Brazilian agricultural research service, Embrapa, continues to develop new and improved conventional soybean varieties for production in Mato Grosso.

Reporters from the Diario de Cuiaba newspaper attended the meeting and interviewed the Director of Technology Transfer for Embrapa, Alexandre Cattelan, who indicated that Embrapa is committed to helping sustain conventional soybean production in Brazil. Embrapa as well as the Soybean and Corn Producer Association of Mato Grosso (Aprosoja/MT) feel that conventional soybeans can be just as profitable as GMO soybeans. They have many of the same technologies for disease and pest resistance and they are very useful in helping to control herbicide resistant weeds that are becoming a bigger problem. Mato Grosso is the largest producer of conventional soybeans in Brazil because of the unique way in which the soybeans are exported from western Mato Grosso. The conventional soybeans that are exported from the western part of the state are exported through ports on the Amazon River where the conventional soybeans are kept separate from GMO soybeans. None of the other major ports in Brazil preserve the identity of conventional soybeans unless they are shipped in containers.

The "Free Soybean Program" was created by the Soybean and Corn Producer Association of Mato Grosso with the cooperation of Embrapa.